More than half of teacher contracts remain unsettled

Teachers in 55 percent of Minnesota school districts are working without settled contracts, Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher reported today.

The 2011 Legislature repealed the traditional Jan. 15 deadline to settle Minnesota teacher contracts, which are negotiated every two years.

Had the deadline been in place this year, it would have fallen at midnight Jan. 17 because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

It was the first time since 2004 that the bargaining deadline was not in place.

As of today, 184 out of 338 contracts are not settled. That compares with just 18 unsettled contracts two years ago. Since the deadline was implemented in 1989, it has been suspended three times. With the deadline in place, at least 95 percent of contracts were settled. Without it, no more than 45 percent of contracts were settled.

Salary increases are averaging just 0.88 percent in the first year, and 1.03 percent in the second year. Those figures are only slightly higher than the record-low settlements from two years ago.

Additionally, 37 percent of the settled teacher contracts so far have no wage increase for one or both years. Teacher salary increases have lagged behind inflation for six of the last seven years.

Dooher said that protracted negotiations aren’t healthy for teachers, districts or students. “When contract negotiations drag on, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the community,” he said.  Dooher said Education Minnesota wants the deadline reinstated.

The tough bargaining experienced by teachers and districts in recent years is symptomatic of the state’s broken education funding system and the Legislature’s failure to fix it, he said.

“You can’t say you’re solving problems when you’re only delaying or avoiding them,” he said. “Sooner or later, the gimmicks have to give way to real, long term solutions.”

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